Philosophers and Marx in the 1950s

In the 1960s, as an undergraduate and eventually a graduate student in philosophy, I had the strong impression that Anglophone philosophy did not pay much attention to the philosophy and theories of Karl Marx. He was regarded as a "dead dog". His work was rarely treated in the history of philosophy in the 1950s and …

Philosophy after the Holocaust

The sustained, extended atrocities of the twentieth century -- the genocide of the Holocaust, the Holodomor, totalitarian repression, the Gulag, the Armenian genocide, the rape of Nanjing -- require new questions and new approaches to the problems of philosophy. What are some of those new questions and insights that philosophers should take up? How can …

Herder’s philosophy of history and humanity

An earlier post attempted to express the idea that "humanity" and human culture are self-creators: there is no fixed and prior system of meanings, values, allegiances, and ways of acting that constitutes humanity. Instead, human beings have, through the history of millennia of culture formation, created frameworks of value, meaning, and social relationships that have structured human …

Evil and the philosophy of history

images: Two residents of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) Vast numbers of words have been written about the atrocities of the twentieth century -- about the Holocaust, about Stalin's war of starvation against Ukraine's peasants, about the Gulag, and about other periods of unimaginable and deliberate mass suffering throughout the century. First-person accounts, historians' narratives, sociologists' and psychologists' studies …

Does Seneca have a system of philosophy?

Seneca's epistles to Lucilius in Letters from a Stoic represent a huge contribution to Stoic philosophy, filled with examples and aphorisms that illuminate both common life situations and a consistent "Stoic" attitude towards them. Can we say more than this? Is Seneca fundamentally an aphorist, or is he a philosopher with deep and extended theories and ideas? …

A brief Senecian reflection on the humble kidney stone

A kidney stone is an affliction. It is a source of pain, it makes sleep impossible, it is a misery that makes thought about anything else impossible. And its treatment is ... dramatic. It is just the kind of life situation we humans are subject to. But we might shrug it off when it's all …

Epicurean advertising?

image: Epicurus inscription at Oenoanda (credit Jack A. Waldron (link)) In The Consolations of Philosophy Alain de Botton offers an interesting observation concerning one of the sequels to Epicureanism -- a massive public wall carving commissioned by Diogenes of Oenoanda (a small city in what is now Turkey). Diogenes of Oenoanda (not to be confused with the more famous …

Does philosophy offer consolation?

image: Martin Buber Alain de Botton's Consolations of Philosophy poses a bit of a puzzle. Why "consolations"? And why philosophy? How does philosophy come into the picture? For many professional philosophers from the past seventy-five years, the answer would be: not at all. Philosophy, in the analytic tradition anyway, is not concerned with the individual person's subjective …

Botton’s philosophy of life in the world

Image: Diogenes and his barrel I've somehow missed reading any of the numerous books of philosophical reflections authored by Alain de Botton. They have often given me an impression of being written in a clever way for a literate audience, but without the heft of a Rawls or a Ricoeur. Now, with a copy of Status Anxiety to …

Analytic philosophy of meaning and smart AI bots

One of the impulses of the early exponents of analytic philosophy was to provide strict logical simplifications of hitherto vague or indefinite ideas. There was a strong priority placed on being clear about the meaning of philosophical concepts, and more generally, about "meaning" in language simpliciter. Here are the opening paragraphs of Rudolf Carnap’s The Logical Structure …

%d bloggers like this: